“When you’ve got everything you want, what’s left?”
Welcome to the world of affluent, suburban California high school, where being a 17-year old Asian perfectionist, overachiever & vying for admission to a prestigious university is a way of life for Ben and his friends. Every activity Ben is involved in is a calculated attempt at trying to look good on college “apps”. And as he moves through this carefully constructed & competitive world, the façade starts to crumble.
Parents are non-existent in this film, and as Ben reflects, “Straight A’s are an alibi”, because as long as the grades are good, and he can get into a top school, he has absolute freedom. So, as Ben and his crew of pals, Darrick, Virgil & Han live off this freedom, where they create their own rules in a dangerous double-life, that threatens to spin out of control. As their power and the legend surrounding them grows, the crew find themselves getting deeper and deeper into money making cheating scams, petty theft, material excess and drugs. For a time they seem to pull back from the edge, but their final coup de grace ends with devastating consequences.
Director Justin Lin gives an amazing portrait of modern high school life that is edgy, provocative and lets the audience peer behind the veil of perception to see something much darker & sinister. The film is well acted, well edited and was a favorite at Sundance. Of course, seeing it in your living room won’t quite add up to the experience of an audience filled with hipster Asians, playing with their hi-tech phone games & text messaging (like I did), but this is a film that’s not to be missed.